Even with near-identical job descriptions, two administrative professionals can wind up earning very different salaries. Why the difference?
Industry, geographical location and employer are big factors. Follow these tips to ensure you get the most buck for your work on payday.
The Financial Industry
"There is a hierarchy where support salaries are concerned," says Jennifer Star, copresident of the Jennifer Group, a New York-based recruiting firm specializing in administrative support staff. "The financial industry, in general, pays the best -- with hedge funds, mergers and acquisitions, and investment banking topping out that industry." When you are a broker's assistant, you usually make a commission on top of your base salary, according to Star. "So if you are supporting a top producer, you can potentially earn over six figures," she says.
The Legal Field
After finance, the legal industry paid the best salaries to administrative support staff for the last four years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and this trend is projected to continue. While being a legal secretary doesn't offer a profit-sharing incentive like you'd find in finance, the profession has generally high pay structures, coupled with a great deal of overtime pay.
Avoid Glamorous Industries
Industries that have a high glitz factor (where people often work in entry-level support positions in hopes of securing a long-term job in the industry) generally pay the lowest salaries. "The fashion, publishing and advertising industries pay off in future careers, clothing allowances or tickets to shows," says Star. "But you can't pay your mortgage with front-row seats to a concert."
Geography and Salary
The city in which you work also influences your pay. Salaries vary a great deal in different parts of the country. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, earnings are usually lowest in southern cities and highest in northern, western and coastal cities. And not surprisingly, larger cities such as New York City and San Francisco top the list of highest-paying regions.
Work as a Personal Assistant
Another lucrative alternative for administrative professionals is to work as a personal assistant, not tied to a particular industry. "Personal assistants can make six-figure incomes, but they will work for it," says Star, who cautions that this type of job has no boundaries. "Most likely, you will be on call all of the time." Personal assistants have to be willing to cancel their plans on short notice and to deal with the intimate details of their employers' lives. "Most people who do this job are single and have no obligations -- and usually leave the job once they get married or have children, but it can be a lucrative opportunity," Star says.
For more information and tips to help you advance your administrative career, see all our advice for admin professionals.